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Richard O. Ristine, 1920-2009

A memorial celebration will be held at the Leland Lodge on June 27, 2009, from 2 to 4 P.M., to honor Richard O. (“Dick”) Ristine, who died at home in Leland, Michigan, on June 20, 2009, after a brief illness. A memorial service will be held in the Wabash College Chapel, Crawfordsville, Indiana, at a later date.

Mr. Ristine was born January 19, 1920, the only child of Harley Thomson and Helen Osborne Ristine of Crawfordsville, Indiana. As a child he began spending summer weeks in Leland. He attended public schools in Crawfordsville and graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from Wabash College. After graduating from Columbia University Law School, he served in World War II with the Army Air Corps in the Philippines and Japan until his honorable discharge as a Captain in 1946. Later that year, he married Mary Lou Durrett of Wichita Falls, Texas.

After launching his legal career with the Baker & Daniels law firm in Indianapolis, he moved his family to Crawfordsville to practice law there, as had his great-grandfather, his grandfather and his father. Following in the footsteps of his grandfather and great-great-grandfather who had served in the Indiana General Assembly, Mr. Ristine was elected in 1950 to the Indiana State Senate, where he continued to represent Montgomery and Putnam counties through 1960, when he was elected Lieutenant Governor. In 1964, Mr. Ristine was the Republican candidate for Governor. For his 14 years in elected public office, he will be particularly remembered for his 1963 tie-breaking vote, as President of the Senate, which resulted in Indiana’s first sales tax.

In Crawfordsville, he practiced law with Robert Wernle. Their firm, Wernle, Ristine and Ayers, was Indiana’s second oldest law firm at the time of its dissolution in 2000. In the 1960’s, following his term as Lieutenant Governor, Mr. Ristine became president of Crawfordsville’s Elston Bank & Trust Co. His tenure on its board of directors spanned 31 years. Starting in Crawfordsville and continuing for over five decades, he had been an elder in the Presbyterian Church.

In Indianapolis, Mr. Ristine was a vice-president of L.S. Ayres & Co. before becoming Executive Vice-President of Lilly Endowment. During his Indianapolis era, he helped numerous corporations and nonprofit organizations pursue their missions by serving on their boards of directors. His Board service included the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis, Meridian Mutual Insurance Co., Indianapolis Water Co. and L.S. Ayres & Co. Mr. Ristine was a former chairman of the Indiana Historical Society, a former vice-chairman and a life trustee of the Nature Conservancy (Indiana Chapter), former chairman of the Indiana State Board of Mental Health and the Association of Mental Health in Indiana, former vice-chairman of the Indiana Employment Security Board and of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, former chairman of the Board of Regents of the Indiana Academy, and former board member of Associated Colleges of Indiana.

Throughout his life, Mr. Ristine was passionate about Wabash College. His ancestors were among the founders of the College and the town of Crawfordsville. Among the positions he held were president of the National Association of Wabash Men and of the former Wabash College Foundation, Treasurer of the College for ten years, and Director of Development and Director for External Affairs before retiring in 1993. On the Board of Trustees he served actively for 35 years and in emeritus status for 15 years. His widow, Mary Lou (“Lou”) Ristine, is the second of six honorary alumnae of the all-male college.

In Leland, in his 70’s and 80’s, Mr. Ristine continued to serve his community, especially after Dick and Lou moved there permanently in 1997 to the home they had bought in 1975. He assisted several Leelanau County charitable organizations and township commissions, and at the time of his death, was an honorary chairman of the Leelanau Conservancy, a past director of Leelanau Children’s Center and a member of the Rotary Club of Suttons Bay and Leelanau County.
He was named a Sagamore of the Wabash by six Republican and four Democrat governors, and received honorary degrees from Wabash College, Indiana State University, Vincennes University, Indiana University and Marian College.

Mr. Ristine is survived by Lou, his wife of 62 years; their three sons, Richard O. Jr. (Karen) and Thomas H. (Jill) of Indianapolis and James D. (Mardi Black) of Leelanau Township; four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

 Memorial contributions may be made to Wabash College or to Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church, both of Crawfordsville, Indiana, or to the Leelanau Conservancy, the Leelaau Children’s Center or Share Care of Leelanau County, all of Leland, Michigan.